Our quest to cultivate greater conversations has allowed me to meet incredible people from all walks of life. It's truly amazing that I have the opportunity to do the kind of work I do; to be able to empower people and help them to build and hone their soft skills. Like all quests, there are seasons of great victory and seasons of defeat. Then, there are unexpected moments in a quest that leave you forever changed. You don’t know when it will happen or how, but if you can somehow be present and trust in your ability to take on that moment, it’s truly a beautiful experience.
I had the pleasure of such an experience very recently and it was centered around the heart of what we teach at Practical Dramatics;
One of the discussions we have with our students stems from this simple question:
Why do we communicate?
While we always receive fantastic responses from our students, the three ideas that we leave for them are:
To Survive; To Thrive; and To Create Change.
Little did I know that creating change was going to be the result of an unexpected interaction I would have.
It was my birthday last week. As my friends and I were ending an evening of celebrating, we connected with a young woman who was homeless. My friends wanted to give her a few dollars to help, and we got caught up in what we could say to her to help as well. I stepped in and told them I would be glad to spark a conversation with her..
What I thought was going to be a few words, ended up becoming a conversation that would change both of us.
I didn’t provide life shaking words of wisdom, inspirational sound bites or a pithy quote that fundamentally changed her as a person. This was no Hollywood movie. What I did was make sure I kept the conversation to the basics of human connectedness:
I used my verbals and introduced myself. Nothing fancy there, but we connected. That led to me sharing some words I hoped would encourage her.
I was conscious of my non-verbals and made sure she knew I was listening and that I cared about what she had to say. I focused on her and the moment we were creating through our conversation.
I listened to her para-verbals or the sounds of her words, and I was able to sense she was hurt. She was in a very dark place in life and spoke with little hope for her future. Knowing that, I was able to circle back to my verbals and use words that I felt could help lift her up.
I didn't know if it was going to work. I didn’t know if she was just going to take the money and ignore me. I had no clue what to expect. I was nervous as I made the approach because this was totally out of my comfort zone.
We did connect and after having a chance to reflect on that experience, I absolutely believe that my understanding of those elements of communication - verbals, non-verbals and para-verbals, helped me build a bridge. There was one other element that I felt helped me in that moment and what laid the foundation for whole experience:
If I didn’t truly believe that connecting with this human was important, or I that what I was sharing with her was vital to that connectivity, then all the verbal, non-verbal, para-verbal elements don’t really matter. She would not have listened or heard me.
Because conviction served as my foundation for all the other elements of my conversation, my words went into her ears and straight to her heart. She not only listened to me but our exchange ended with her standing up and giving me a hug and a subtle touch to my face. She thanked me and we were both emotional and teary-eyed during our embrace.It was a beautiful and powerful experience that neither I or my friends witnessing would ever forget.
One of the things I learned from that experience that I must always be ready to consciously use my communication skills in any situation - regardless of whether it’s an important client meeting, making a great elevator pitch, or to connect with and encourage someone down on their luck.
We can use communication and soft skills in so many ways. For my experience, I used it as medicine for my soul. How will you communicate with the people in your life?
A single word is powerful, but a conversation can move mountains. At Practical Dramatics, we aim to continue moving mountains and changing the world through the power of conversations.
Jason Torres is a Trainer and Conversation Catalyst with Practical Dramatics, based in Charleston, SC. The company uses theatre strategies to help humans grow more profitable conversations with other humans.